2017 Audio - Silver

Deep in the Outback of southern Australia, Robbie McEwan recounted the hurried chase by planetary geologist Phil Bland and colleagues to find a meteorite that had been sighted by a cook taking a break on the veranda of a pub in a dusty desert town. More importantly, it also was detected by a new network of automated cameras recently deployed by Bland’s team in an ambitious effort to track meteors not only to their final points of impact but also back to their points of origin in the solar system. McEwan followed the story of Bland and Aboriginal guide Dean Stuart as they raced to find the meteorite before predicted rains would turn the harsh, salt-crusted landscape to mud and likely erase any trace of the space rock. Even with data provided by his student assistants who had used a supercomputer to predict the mass of the meteorite – about the size of a football – and the coordinates for its impact, Bland knew it would be a challenge to find a tell-tale ring on the salt plain, described as “like a coffee stain.” McEwan captured the excitement as Bland, with the help of a colleague flying overhead in a light aircraft, located the rock just as the rains came. “It was the best moment that I’ve ever had in the field,” Bland said. Dan Vergano, a science reporter for BuzzFeed, called the piece “just tremendous fun, a great story of passion in science that pays off with a remarkable eureka moment.” McEwan adds, “For scientists searching for answers to the ever-deepening mysteries of the universe, life can be full of drama, joy and plain old hard work. This was certainly the case for the subjects of this story.”